SAG AWARDS 2017

Speaking to reporters backstage following his Screen Actors Guild win for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a television Movie or Miniseries for All the War, Bryan Cranston was asked: “A lot of people were complaining on social network that the show became too political and it should be entertaining and tonight a lot of the actors gave political speeches. What do you say to these people who say it is only entertainment?”

Mr. Cranston responded, “We are human beings and citizens before we ever became actors and activist or artists of any kind. If something is important to you, if something appears before you in a way that feels oppression it’s up to the citizenry to speak out. Not everybody agrees but that is part of the democracy is that we are allowed to do that. In so many countries around the world you aren’t even allowed to voice objections or any dissent. Our country was founded on that. So we shouldn’t be afraid of it. We should embrace everything so that the voices are all heard and then people make up their own minds on how they would like to continue.”

A few days earlier, January 25th, I was watching ESPN’s Around the Horn. During the show New York Daily News‘ Frank Isola and The Dallas Morning News‘ Tim Cowlishaw were saying athletes should not be talking politics. They were speaking about Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady, being asked by reporters about his support of President Donald Trump. Cowlishaw, who brought a “Make America Great Hat” as a prop said “I don’t know why we care what any athlete who they vote for”. Isola said, “It’s not polite to talk about politics at the dinner table or during Super Bowl week. You keep saying he has to answer for it. He is not running for political office he is running the New England Patriots offense and that is all that matters right now.”

Actors are people. Musicians are people. Athletes are people. They are citizens of the world and of our country. They vote. Their vote counts just as much as mine and just as much as yours. By trying to silence actors, musicians and athletes you are trying to silence us all. The best part of America is that we have differing opinions and we can voice them. We can have our opinions heard. We can debate with one another about our values.

I get it is hard at times to relate to the people we see on TV. They are in a way immortal. At time times we only know them as the characters they play or the image they want to convey. But they have families at home. They have stories to tell. How ridiculous is it when we look at actors and musicians and athletes and think they shouldn’t voice their opinions and/or concerns? How insane is it when we think of them as not people like you and me?

Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James had every right to stand up at this summer’s ESPY Awards to talk about Black Lives Matters and police brutality. They are people first. They should be entitled to use their platform to address issues that are affecting them and their fans. We should admire them for exercising their first Amendment right. In many ways them speaking out is the most American thing they can do.

Last night actors like Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Taraji P. Hensan, Ashton Kutcher, Mahershala Ali, Emma Stone, Sarah Paulson, Lily Tomlin,  the cast of Stranger Things and Bryan Cranston spoke up. We should be encouraging actors, musicians, athletes and the entire population to speak up, voice their opinions and join the debate if they want to. Stop telling people to shut up!